EVENT REVIEW: Gillette Discussion, Oxford

By Matt Dickinson, GLI Volunteer Oxford

Earlier this month, GLI co-hosted a public discussion evening about masculinity at Oxford University’s Balliol College, creating space to discuss the most controversial advert of 2019 yet: Gillette’s #TheBestMenCanBe campaign (view the ad, right). Along with fellow organisers UN Women Oxford (UNWO), a student-led society engaging young people in gender equality work, a capacity crowd of sixty turned out to dissect the ad, its messages about tomorrow’s men, and the backlash it faced.

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The evening’s excitement kicked off with a warm welcome from UNWO Chair Emily Capstick and former GLI Oxford co-ordinator Tom Hornbrook. The room fell into pensive silence upon screening the advert followed by the invitation to join four facilitator-guided discussion circles by GLI volunteer Hugh Palmer. Themes included positive masculinity as promoted by Gillette, backlash, corporate motives, and how the advert fits the bigger picture of past and future action against harassment and violence against women.

The night was a resounding success, with diverse views openly and respectfully aired, and one attendee travelling from as far afield as Warwick! The overwhelming consensus was one of support for the advert's central message that men need to get involved in preventing violence. However, one particularly interesting viewpoint questioned whether the advert made enough effort to encourage personal introspection, or if there was too much emphasis on individual acts of “heroism” by policing the actions of other men.

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The evening’s greatest achievements were engaging a wider mixed-gender audience, increasing GLI’s visibility to the community and forming a friendship with a fantastic sister organisation working for common goals in Oxford and beyond.